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Top US advocacy group praises Piyush Goyal for the positive elements

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New Delhi: A leading American trading advocacy unit appreciated the interim budget declared by the interim finance minister Piyush Goyal, stating that many positive elements in it will aid the consumer spending and economic growth.

Reaching out to a large electorate before the Lok Sabha polls, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government announced a cash allowance of Rs 6000 crore for small farmers, a mega pension scheme for the unorganised sector and doubled the threshold income tax exemption limit to Rs 5 lakh.

Minister Goyal offered a series of incentives for both middle-class and farmers, whose disappointment have resulted in BJP’s dearly loss in recent assembly elections.

 

“We see many positive elements that will support consumer spending and economic growth, including a boost in defense and health spending as well as a renewed focus on digitisation of government processes as well as artificial intelligence,” US India Business Council (USIBC) president Nisha Desai Biswal said.

The creation of a single window for approvals in film production will bolster the media and entertainment industries as well as measures on anti-piracy, she added.
“USIBC applauds the interim budget released by the government,” she added.

However, the interim Budget comes after the disappointing moves made by the Union government to mandate a rushed implementation of changes in its eCommerce policy, she stated.

The Indian government’s failure to extend the February 1 deadline to comply with the foreign direct investment policy in e-commerce has already created disruptions in the industry and disadvantaged Indian consumers and suppliers, she said.

“The policy change adds unnecessary costs and burdens to e-commerce platforms and will inhibit growth in the e-commerce sector in India,” Ms Biswal said.

Karun Rishi, president of USA-India Chamber of Commerce (USICC) said the interim Budget was pro farmers and middle class.

Fiscal stimulus to small and marginal farmers and tax schemes for the middle class will lead to more disposable income. “This will result in increased consumption. It will likely boost the rural economy and surge domestic growth,” Mr Rishi said.

Even with these schemes, the finance minister has managed to keep the anticipated fiscal deficit at 3.4 per cent. The deficit is well within range. Finance Minister has succeeded in doing a fine balancing act, he said.

“With this budget, growth is likely to improve further and meeting 7.5 per cent real GDP target,” Mr Rishi said.

Noting that the 13 per cent increase in Department of Health and Family Welfare budget is laudable, he said this confirms Indian government’s dedication to Healthy India initiatives and its commitment to serve the poor and needy.

Threefold increase in allocation to Ayushman Bharat reinforces the commitment towards Universal Healthcare for all citizens, he said.

For the last 13 years, USAIC has been pitching for increased outlay on Science and Technology.

“Science and Technology are vital for the National progress. We are pleased to see largest ever allocation for the S&T. This will help India play a leading role in innovation. Plan to develop one hundred thousand digital villages in the next five years is laudable,” Mr Rishi added.


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RBI asks banks to grout ATMs to wall, floor for security by September-end

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Mumbai: The Reserve Bank asked banks to ensure their ATMs are grouted to a wall, pillar, or floor by September-end, except those installed in high secured premises such as airports, to enhance security of the cash vending machines.

In 2016, the RBI had st up a Committee on Currency Movement (CCM) to review the entire gamut of security of treasure in transit.

Based on the recommendations of the panel, the central bank has now issued instructions aimed at mitigating risks in ATM operations and enhancing security.

 

As part of the security measures, all “ATMs shall be operated for cash replenishment only with digital One Time Combination (OTC) locks”.

Also, “All ATMs shall be grouted to a structure (wall, pillar, floor, etc.) by September 30, 2019, except for ATMs installed in highly secured premises such as airports, etc. which have adequate CCTV coverage and are guarded by state/central security personnel”.

Further, banks may also consider rolling out a comprehensive e-surveillance mechanism at the ATMs to ensure timely alerts and quick response, it said.

The new measures to be adopted by banks are in addition to the existing instructions, practices and guidance issued by the RBI and law enforcement agencies.

The RBI also warned the banks that non-adherence of timelines or non-observance of the instructions would attract regulatory action including levy of penalty.

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SBI refuses to disclose communication from RBI, govt on electoral bonds

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New Delhi: The State Bank of India has refused to disclose any communication it received from the government or the Reserve Bank of India on electoral bonds, terming it “personal information” and held in “fiduciary capacity”.

Responding to an RTI filed by Pune-based activist Vihar Durve who had demanded copies of all letters, correspondence, directions, notifications or e-mails received from the RBI or any government department between 2017 and 2019, the SBI said it cannot be provided by it.

The bank cited two exemption clauses under the RTI Act to deny information — Section 8(1)(e) which pertains to information held in fiduciary capacity and Section 8(1)(J) which pertains to personal information of a person which has no link to any public activity.

 

“Information sought by the applicant cannot be disclosed as it is in fiduciary capacity, disclosure of which is exempted under Section 8(1)(e) and 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, 2005,” the Central Public Information Officer of the bank said in his reply.

The bank also refused to give any details of action taken by it on such communications from the RBI and the government.

The electoral bonds, for giving donations to political parties, are being sold through SBI only. The sale opens in SBI branches when the Finance Ministry issues a notification of their sale for a given period.

The scheme of electoral bonds notified by the Centre in 2018 has been challenged in the Supreme Court.

Only the political parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (43 of 1951) and which secured not less than one per cent of the votes polled in the last general election to the House of the People or the Legislative Assembly of the State, shall be eligible to receive the bonds.

The bonds may be purchased by a person who is a citizen of India “or incorporated or established in India,” the government had said in a statement last year.

The bonds remain valid for 15 days and can be encashed by an eligible political party only through an account with the authorised bank within that period only.

A voluntary group working in the field of electoral reforms, Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), has demanded a stay on the sale while the CPI(M) has challenged it before the Supreme Court in separate petitions.

ADR recently filed an application in the Supreme Court seeking a stay on the Electoral Bond Scheme, 2018 which was notified by the Centre in January last year.

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Walmart’s Flipkart, Indian startup GOQii settle dispute over sharp discounting

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New Delhi: Walmart unit Flipkart has settled a legal dispute with an Indian startup that alleged it suffered losses because its products were sharply discounted on the global retailer’s website.

GOQii, a seller of smartwatch-type health devices, sued Flipkart last month in a Mumbai court, alleging its devices were discounted by around 70 per cent to the retail price, much more than the two sides had agreed. The court had, as an interim measure, ordered device sales to be halted on Flipkart.

In a joint statement , the companies said the dispute had been resolved and GOQii health devices would again be available on Flipkart. They didn’t say how the settlement was reached.

 

Vishal Gondal, CEO of GOQii, told Reuters the company would withdraw the case against Flipkart. The e-commerce retailer’s “team worked on a resolution benefitting the brand and the customers”, Gondal said in the statement.

The legal spat was seen as a test case of the giant retailer’s operating strategy in the country.

Small traders and a right-wing group close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party have raised concerns about large e-commerce companies, saying they burn billions of dollars deeply discounting some products to lure customers onto their sites, in the expectation that they will also buy other goods.

GOQii said it signed an agreement last year with a Flipkart unit to sell two of its devices at a price not below 1,999 rupees (USD 28.63) and 1,499 rupees. It later found the devices were being sold for 999 rupees and 699 rupees, calling it “unauthorized” discounting.

In response, Flipkart said it reserved “the right to institute actions for defamation, both civil and criminal”, arguing it wasn’t responsible for any discounts which are determined by third-party firms which sell via its website.

The two companies struck a friendlier tone in their joint-statement on Friday as they brought the legal battle to an end.

“We have ensured constant engagement with GOQii to resolve any differences,” Flipkart said in the statement.

With a 19 per cent market share, GOQii was the second-biggest player in India’s so-called wearables market last year, data from industry tracker IDC showed. The market is dominated by China’s Xiaomi, with Samsung a small player.

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